Poem: Context Clues

Context Clues

I know nothing about rhubarb.
I do not know what it looks like,
how it grows in the garden.
exactly the season, except by knowing
when pies appear at church and festivals.

I know, mixed with strawberries,
it becomes a summer luciousness.
The pies I know. Have seen. Have tasted.
The wine too, I have seen on shelves,
each year, a bit into the summer.
I had a sip once, too sweet for me,
but a beautiful color. The color of summer.

I know nothing about rhubarb
except what people say, what they tell me.
I know there is a season and when it grows
my country neighbors wax poetic.
And so of course, I paint it, imaging its colors
hoping, if nothing else, to capture its essence
from all the hints, context clues

I live much of my life in a world of context clues.
Almost no one tells the whole story.
You get bits and pieces here and there.
Dribs and drabs and so I just listen,
watch, the lives around you one great charade,
and I, always late to the game because of my slowness
to to judge, my almost inability to judge,
create the painting and poems in my head,
always adding. Always tweaking.

Sometimes, I get it right.

About this poem

I suck at judgment of people. I think because I have learned I rarely have the whole story. I think because I have been misjudged so often. That’s a mixed thing in the world we live in where judgment, often brutal judgment, is the flavor of the day.

I have said it before. I am a slow processor of emotions. I think, finally, I understand that works for me.

Much of what I know of the world comes from books. Fiction. Essays. Poetry. Less often, non-fiction. When I traveled to Venice, I never read a guidebook. I read novels. I read essays, sometimes lurid, sometimes romantic, about Venice. When I finally arrived, it was like being home. I did not know the details, but I knew the soul.

The painting is one of mine. Rhubard in the Garden.

From all these things, this poem.



  1. Oh, thank you – the last full stanza of your poem sums up my take on life as one among many, each of us unique and puzzling to the others! And rhubarb is a puzzle to me, so fascinating to read your perspectives – beautiful painting, but I don’t especially like the flavor as encountered now and then in situations where it would be impolite to decline. I’ll think of this poem next time!

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